2013, you fed me well. Mostly.
by Aidan Morgan
2013. A year of highs and lows, births and deaths, technologically advanced toothbrushes and political unrest, here and abroad. It was also a year when, instead of sitting at home and resenting our kitchens, we went out to eat.
Or ordered in. Look, I’m not judging you.
But I can offer you the benefit of my experience (not to mention the experience of my Knights of Appetite, who selflessly ventured forth with me in all kinds of lousy weather) in a series of arbitrary categories.
MOST AWESOME FOOD TRUCK OF 2013 (EVEN THOUGH BON BURGER ONCE SHOWED UP IN MY PARKING LOT, WHICH WAS PRETTY COOL OF THEM) One day, when the human race is no more, aliens from the future will unearth the remains of the city plaza and conclude that its sheer ugliness drove humanity to commit mass suicide. (“What are these weird wavy metal tubes?” “Awful.”) In the meantime, though, it does a good job of hosting the downtown food trucks, my favourite of which is Beaks Chicken. They cook their chicken sous vide and finish it in the deep fryer, which gives the perfect balance of crispy skin and tender flesh.
Plus they have squeeze bottles of honey, so they win.
HAPPIEST FIND/BEST NEW RESTAURANT/MOMENT WHEN I THOUGHT I COULDN’T EAT ANOTHER BITE BUT ENDED UP HAVING ANOTHER PLATE Thirty minutes in, slowly consuming my way through the menu of Caraway Grill, about to pass out and slide limply under the table, I realized that I hadn’t eaten more than a bite of the spinach lamb. So I spooned a bit on my plate. But it looked lonely without a pakora or two. And some aloo gobi. Right, and just a morsel of red snapper curry. Then I fell asleep and woke up in a Uruguyan casino. I was shoeless and unshaven but at least I was wearing a tuxedo. That’s what good curry will do to you.
I’VE FOUND THE GREATEST BEEF OF ALL Steak! It’s what keeps non-vegetarians alive (I don’t know what vegetarians eat to stay alive. Maybe they inject gluten?). The best steak of 2013 sneaked up on me disguised as a tapas tasting course at The Creek in Cathedral Bistro. It was an absolutely perfect medium-rare piece of Black Angus tenderloin in a bourbon reduction, firm but soft, and freaking delicious.
(Wait! It’s quinoa! They eat quinoa. And vegetarian lasagna.)
AN INQUIRY INTO THE LOCATION OF SATISFYING BEEF “For every great steak, there is an equal and oppositely bad steak,” said Isaac Newton in his doctoral thesis on quantum steak entanglement (apparently it’s related to the spin of the steak particles). I experienced Newton’s insight firsthand at the Wild Sage Restaurant at the Doubletree Hilton. Our table ordered two Saskatchewan-raised sirloins with creole sauce, only to discover that even a tasty sauce can’t redeem a flavourless and chewy cut of meat. I’m going to give Wild Sage the benefit of the doubt (see the brunch entry below) and assume that both steaks came from a cow that misrepresented itself.
THE TALE OF THE PRODIGAL BREAKFAST JOINT Once upon a time, a diner on Victoria Street called Simply Delicious confounded Regina breakfasters with its giant breakfast scrambles and incomprehensible hours. Then one day it disappeared, taking its endless refills and little sausages with it. We wailed, gnashed our teeth, rent our garments, and ended up hollow-eyed and despondent at Smittys.
Wail no more! Simply Delicious has returned and is now located on Park Street. The vibe is decidedly more greasy spoon than country diner this time around, but the bacon and eggs and coffee are as good as ever.
BRUNCH IS THE WARMEST MEAL Who’s serving upscale brunch these days? Apparently everyone. I rarely go out for brunch because I was once told by a fortune teller that I would die horribly if I woke up before 11:00 a.m. on a weekend morning, but when I feel like tempting destiny it’s nice to go out and do it over some pancakes. My favourite brunch experience in 2013 was the take-your-grandmother Sunday brunch at the Doubletree Hilton’s Wild Sage Restaurant. In terms of variety and quality it rivals the Hotel Saskatchewan’s offering (which is just as well, since both will run you $25.00).
FORCEMEAT AND FERMENT It was the Year of Charcuterie. 2013 isn’t the first year that charcuterie appeared on restaurant menus in Regina, but it seemed inescapable, especially if you ate downtown. Two forces, or faces, drove the fermented-meat train this year: Jonathan Thauberger of Crave, whose rabbit rillette and chicken liver parfait have some of the smoothest and most delicate flavours I’ve ever enjoyed (not to mention the rabbit ballotine created by Thauberger at the Gold Medal Plates challenge, which earned him first prize); and Dave Straub of Flip Eatery, who opened Salt Food Boutique this year. It’s like a Christmas miracle, if your idea of Christmas involves refrigerators full of fermented meat.
THE BEST PLACE WITH THE WORST NAME
OTHER PLACES AND THINGS OF NOTE Tangerine continued its campaign of awesomeness with its ever-rotating menu and the promise of a full-blown cooking school on the premises; The Artful Dodger Café smoked its own bacon, with deliciously maple-flavoured results (it also had Regina’s best pizza); A la Carte Catering closed its doors after years of operation; Da Vegetarian Curry House brought southern Indian cuisine to Regina in the form of bright white idlies and crispy dosas; and apparently the city now sports two Applebees outlets, so that’s always an option if you’re tired of swigging your calories directly from a bottle of corn syrup. Go have a milkshake and a pulled pork poutine at the Coney Island Café instead.